The number of new COVID-19 cases in Ontario has ticked upward over the past few days — and the province's top doctor says he's looking into why.
There were 413 new cases announced Thursday, for a total of 24,187.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said at a briefing Thursday that one reason might be that positive cases from the survey of every long-term care home in the province are still coming through, but he doesn't actually have a breakdown on how many of the new cases are from long-term care rather than the wider community.
Public health units have found workplace outbreaks and outbreaks in congregate settings, but in some cases the people with COVID-19 say they don't know where they may have gotten it — and Williams said it may be that they don't want to admit they violated social distancing rules. He called on people to be forthcoming so that their friends and contacts could be informed they are at risk.
The uptick in cases also comes as the province opened up the criteria for testing among the general public to anyone with a broad range of symptoms associated with COVID-19. However, Williams said there wasn't rush of people to the assessment centres, at least during the long weekend.
He wondered aloud if the public wasn't getting the message that they can now be tested. "Are the public aware? Do the public know how to do it? Is some of our messaging not clear? Is some of our messaging confusing?" he asked.
The doctor's clarity of communication is an issue that has as been remarked upon by some members of the press.
“In that regard...” https://t.co/yzIRKz2Qvj
— André Picard (@picardonhealth) May 21, 2020
Meanwhile, Williams said the province has not relaxed its five-person limit on social gatherings, but is actively considering the concept of household bubbling.
"That means the social gathering numbers, and even with the aspects you've been asking about with the concepts of other provinces with the bubbling and the cohorting, we're still working that through to see if we were going to do something in Ontario how might could and should we do that and what might it look like," he said. "So, these are important things to consider, because remember stage one of phase two is a three- to four-week period, as we observe what we're going to do, so some things will be staying in place as we hope to see a drop in these numbers."
Premier Doug Ford announced the 15 research projects awarded grants under the Ontario COVID-19 Rapid Research Fund, set up four weeks ago. The projects were selected by a peer review committee and more are expected to be announced soon.
"Ontario is leading the nation in the battle to defeat this deadly virus. We have some of the most incredible researchers and innovators anywhere in the world right here in our province," said Ford. "There's no reason why a new rapid testing method, vaccine or treatment can't be found right here in Ontario. Our government is investing in some very promising research proposals, which have the potential to save lives and help us get back to a way of life that is as close to normal as possible."
You can find a full list of funded projects here.
Liberal MPP Amanda Simard wrote to Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria on Thursday calling on him to limit the cut food-delivery platforms such as Uber Eats can take from restaurant sales during the pandemic.
"As you may have heard, some of these platforms are charging up to a 30 per cent commission on sales during a time where restaurants are dependent on delivery services as they are not able to physically be open and serve Ontarians," wrote Simard. "This fee is impacting numerous small business owners across Ontario and impacting their ability to pay staff and cover critical operating expenses such as rent. Many of these businesses are at risk."
She called for commissions to be limited to 15 per cent, as has been done in New York City.
Recovery Committee and commercial evictions
A coalition of business groups — The Ontario BIA Association, the Economic Developers Council of Ontario and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada — are calling on the government to provide greater clarity about the mandate of its Ontario Jobs and Recovery Committee (OJRC).
In a letter to Finance Minister Rod Phillips, chair of the committee, the groups called for terms of reference for the committee and information about stakeholders who will be consulted.
The groups also called for it to be mandatory for landlords to apply to the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Relief Assistance (OCECRA) if their tenants qualify, and for the province to put a moratorium on commercial evictions for at least six months.
“While we have strived to communicate regularly with the Province, our Municipalities and the Government of Canada, we continue to have growing and unanswered concerns for our collective economies,” said Kay Matthews, Executive Director of Ontario BIA Association, in a statement. “All three of our organizations are pivotal in building and sustaining the communities that are the cultural fabric of our heritage and backbone of Ontario’s economy, communities that are being lost as each day passes.”
Asked about commercial rents on Thursday, Ford said he will wait to see how the commercial rent relief program progresses before taking any further steps.
Engaged couples got no good news from the premier on Thursday. Asked if he could say when it might be possible to hold big weddings, with hundreds of guests, again, Ford said he couldn't give a timeline.
Ford said he wouldn't want anyone to call off their wedding, but that he's heard from some couples who have been married in small ceremonies during the pandemic and plan to hold bigger celebrations later on.
"They're going to have to just go with the program right now," he said. "I know it's not great, it's one of your big days, a birth of a child or your wedding day, and unfortunately this virus has gotten in the way."